NAS / PVR backend build - help!!


Active Member
The good news: I've decided to ditch Sky. So this means we can save a wedge of cash each month and also satisfy my geek desire to build stuff which can replace it.
The better news: I love Kodi as a front-end for entertainment purposes. All our music is now on a NAS and I'll be looking at transitioning all of our AV storage to a new, bigger NAS including BD rips and PVR recordings.

The bad news: I need your help because despite searching through threads and days of googling, I don't know what is the right answer for me.

So... how do I go about this? I'm ok at Windows, pretty novice at Linux (but not afraid of the command line). The setup I'd ideally be looking to roll out is something like this:

4xCat6a+coax backbone to every room around the house (may as well run 5 slightly more expensive cables if I'm going to the bother of routing through studs, taking off plasterboard etc.). This will route structured cabling (IP/phone/aerial) to a hub cupboard in the basement - ventilated of course. This will contain all the kit: NAS, patch panel, managed (probably) switch, PVR backend (if separate from NAS) and bundles of cable terminations, of course. Probably won't fully populate all the faceplates in each room - one cat6 and one coax probably ok for most rooms except study.

The AV objective is to have an Amazon Fire TV box or similar (e.g. Pi/Firestick/OpenElec box) at every TV: AV room, kitchen, kids' playroom, study, 4 or 5 beds - yes, complete overkill and for a family of four we'd only likely have three streams running at any one time. We'll also have audio-only streams to the living room and dining room. Thinking is this should be doable as with cat6 (weakest link) we have a full multi-gigabit backbone. Just to reiterate, everything will be wired because I'm going to the quite significant effort to run cables before we move in!

The real aim of this is simply to have a consistent interface (for WAF purposes) available at each TV which can access the same material, no matter which room we're in. Let's say we record Peppa Pig, it can be available in the kids' playroom or their bedroom (or anywhere else). Part of the reason for being happy about ditching Sky is that we can drop the complication (and expense) posed by having HDBaseT or similar for distributing HDMI and audio - it's all networked instead.

The question is what NAS and PVR backend solution is viable here in the UK? All the research on TVheadend etc. seems quite ATSC/US focused and it's hard to find precisely what works here for Freeview HD or Freesat HD. Similarly, I can't find much info on what NAS solutions offer reasonable UK PVR capability and tuner compatibility. I will have a pair of satellite cables from the previous owner's Sky installation available, as well as a Freeview signal from the loft aerial via coax - all into the hub cupboard which will contain whatever PVR option I go for.

I would like to have four tuners, probably 2xFreesat HD and 2xDVB-T2. I can't imagine needing to view or record more than this number of live channels, ever (famous last words!) This is probably the limit on the number of concurrent HD video streams (plus an audio maybe) which would be required, too. I reckon this should be doable with the backbone I have and therefore I just need to make sure I have the hardware capable of backending, storing and serving the streams.

Key question then: Does the PVR backend have to physically transcode the ts stream (or whatever it is) or can it just store it for later decoding and playback on the Fire TV box? Looks like TS replay might be an issue with Android Kodi boxes, so perhaps I need a different local playback device at each TV? Have only bought one FireTV, so it's not a big issue yet if I need to change. If there's no transcoding I'm assuming the load on the PVR backend isn't crippling even for four streams. If it's transcoding HD x 4 then I guess I'm looking at a Xeon processor or similar...

I haven't really talked about NAS, but I'm wondering if a single box can do NAS and PVR duty (with four tuners either USB, single quad card or multiple - don't mind). I don't mind building it using a Proliant or Lenovo cheapy server box if it has the grunt needed. I also don't mind brushing up on Linux skills or having to pay for a Windows license, I just want something which will be sufficient feature-rich to work! I'm assuming Synology, QNAP etc. won't be powerful enough unless I spend crazy amounts. Preference would be to self-build and to keep the NAS excluding drives to a few hundred £, if possible. If this can do PVR duties then fantastic!


(and thanks for reading your way through to the end :))

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